Mike Dembeck


Number of projects: 12

Land value: Land value is the appraised value of land that NCC has conserved directly and with partners. $5,518,861

Acres conserved: 1,300

Stewardship volunteers: 881

Restoration of natural habitat and wetlands in southwestern Ontario


While much of the focus on Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) properties trends toward the conservation and maintenance of existing wildlife habitats, NCC’s Ontario Region saw the transformational potential that existed in land that had been previously repurposed. NCC has been working to restore former agricultural fields back to their natural state for many years. 

In southwestern Ontario, NCC’s field team has transformed 116 acres (47 hectares) of former agricultural fields back into successful grassland and wetland habitats, across six properties. Using the surrounding landscape to determine how and where to restore habitats that have been lost, NCC worked with local contractors to reshape the artificially flattened fields and recreate hollows for wetlands and sandy hills for upland species. We then reintroduced more than 172 species of native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees to the fields.

So far, the results are positive: NCC staff have monitored 182 species of rare plants and wildlife on the properties where restoration and wetland creation took place. Reptiles, amphibians and birds moved in rapidly, and an amazing diversity of insects, including beautiful butterflies and pollinators, are easy to spot throughout our restored properties, including:

  • monarch
  • barn swallow
  • bank swallow
  • milksnake
  • eastern foxsnake
  • eastern hog-nosed snake
  • snapping turtle
  • common hoptree
  • grand redstem
  • tigersnail

From intern to conservation staff


NCC’s support from donors, and partnership with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, has allowed us to help build a path for young conservation-focused interns, giving them the work experience necessary to carry forward in their conservation careers. 

In 2015-2016, five interns, posted in central, midwestern and southwestern Ontario, grew their skills in conservation, and became ambassadors for NCC’s work in local communities. With the support received from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, NCC extended contracts or hired all five interns, helping them make the leap to critical field staff.

From forest maintenance and trail building, to working with Conservation Volunteers, to monitoring species and helping to protect properties from invasive and non-native wildlife, the 2015-2016 intern crew has made positive long-term contributions toward our goal of conserving habitat for generations to come.

While conservation numbers often highlight acreage and species, NCC is also very proud of the human element of what we do every day. We’re pleased that we can contribute to the sustainability of Canada’s natural spaces through the mentorship and training of a new generation of conservation specialists.

Strength in numbers: Captive breeding and release program for shrikes in Ontario

Bill Hubick

More than 150 of the young loggerhead shrikes in a captive release program have passed through the staging grounds at NCC’s Scheck Nature Reserve. The property is located north of Napanee, Ontario, and has been the site for this program (operated in partnership with Wildlife Preservation Canada) since 2012.

The reserve has been a nesting site for loggerhead shrikes almost every year since Canadian researchers started paying attention to the birds back in 1991. Shrikes do tend to use the same nesting sites year after year, so the extended use of this area for breeding isn’t surprising. However, as the amount of habitat on the landscape dwindles, the protection afforded to this habitat by NCC has become all the more important.

The Scheck Nature Reserve is also special for Ontario’s loggerhead shrikes because it holds two bird cages; but these are not your typical cages. These are large outdoor enclosures made up of three cages, each of which stands 10 feet tall, eight feet wide and at least 12 feet long. They are the staging grounds for the release of young captive-bred shrikes.

This year, fewer than 40 loggerhead shrikes were found in Ontario, and almost one quarter of those were captive-bred birds that had been released in past years. These are shocking numbers, but they show the importance of the release of captive-bred young in bolstering the population of birds in the wild while scientists work to understand the shrinking shrike numbers, and how to stop them from continuing to shrink.